Hello, my name is Crispin. I worked for Marks Farms in Lowville, New York for 3 years, and I was fired one day after our supervisor, who is the son of the owner, saw me with members of the Worker Center of Central New York, who tries to help agricultural workers to end the injustices where we work.
I worked for the dairy for more than three years. I was a teenager when I started. I support a family of more than 10 people, including my parents, brothers, and other relatives. This was my first time in this region, I did not know anyone, and I was very alone. The truth is it is very difficult to be so far from my loved ones.
The work was hard and intense. I worked a shift of 12 hours, six days a week, from six in the evening to six in the morning, or from six in the morning to six at night. The work is hard, rapid and constant, and there is pressure to finish it all. Sometimes you cannot take your half hour break to eat lunch, and if you take a break to drink water or go to the bathroom, you can fall behind. They don’t pay us overtime.
There are so many injustices where we work. They treat us like slaves and worse than the cows. It is as if our bosses and supervisors don’t see us as human beings. One supervisor, who is the son in law of the owner, hit a worker, Francisco, in front of other workers. No one did anything to stop it, everyone is afraid to say anything to him. They intimidated us to not go to a protest outside that was about what happened to Francisco.
There are many work accidents in dairies and many workers have died. Many are not trained. When I started to work, a cow stepped on my hand. The owner and her daughter were there and they saw that my hand was bleeding. They didn’t care, and they did not tell me how to go to the hospital or doctor. They did not give me a day off.
I don’t know many people outside of the farm where we live. We don’t have transport. The “raiteros” (people who give us rides) charge us a lot of money so that we can go to buy groceries and return home.
Without the Workers Center, I would be isolated. Sometimes, once a month, a volunteer or Rebecca drives more than two hours to arrive at the trailer where we live. We cannot go to this place without volunteers coming to get us because raiteros charge us more than $500 to take us to Syracuse. Rebecca arrived at the farm, we had a meeting to discuss health and safety in the workplace, obtaining English classes, and the ways in which we could improve working conditions.
We should have the right to do what we want after work. But when the son of the owners saw Rebecca with us, he called the police. We were very afraid.
They fired me after this and I lost my house. They gave me a piece of paper to sign, but it was in English. I had only four days to move and I did not know if they were going to call the police again, and I did not know where to go.
Although I am afraid, but I am here because it is not just what is happening to workers like me. There are so many injustices. I believe that we are all human beings and that we all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
I want the people to know where milk comes from. Without agricultural workers and our labor, there would not be fruits or vegetables. But we feel like we are treated as if we don’t have rights. As if our lives are not important. As if our supervisors could take our earnings, could fire us, or could frighten us when we try to improve working conditions.
I do not want these injustices to continue. I have hope that we can achieve change. I want to ask for your help so that we can change these injustices, that New York will become a state that treats us well, that treats us with dignity and respect.